Jenny Zhang’s stories in Sour Heart are connected by the theme of familial love, but a particular kind of familial love when your parents are immigrants; a sort of fierce protectiveness that you both want to run from but also can’t live without. ‘The Evolution of My Brother’ is about just this. The narrator is frequently mean to her little brother, who has a stammer and can’t say her name right; at the same time, she is sad when he grows out of the stammer, because in a way, she is no longer his, or he is no longer hers, and it means he is growing up: “I didn’t want my brother to grow up, just like my mother hadn’t wanted me to grow up nine years ago. I was the same as her–someone who nurtured my pain as if it could stop things from changing.” This weird, at times gross, story left me feeling like I wanted to call my own brothers up and tell them how much they mean to me.
First published in Rookie magazine, 2011 and available to read here; collected in Sour Heart, Bloomsbury, 2017